While we wait for the ink to dry on the mostly-agreed upon Collective Bargaining Agreement, one change will alter bullpen usage, at least slightly. A player "optioned" to the minor leagues for a sixth time in a season instead must be placed on waivers. While that will likely happen a few times in 2022, I doubt it happens that often.
As of today, Michael Rucker, Manny Rodriguez, Jonathan Holder, Eric Yardley and Locke St. John will be bustling for positions in Wrigley or the upper minors. While I doubt the goal is to rush anyone to the five-option mark, flattening the curve of the eligible players is a valid consideration. Instead of yo-yoing one player regularly, merge other options, like Ethan Roberts, who is on the 40-man roster.
If a player is too close to the limit, look for a possible injury placement. Sit 15 days or so, then get returned to Iowa on a "rehab assignment." And then, people will complain about that.
All the while, locating relievers (for whom the term "fast tracking" actually makes sense) can continue to take place. The Cubs already have fast-risers in the pipeline bullpens in Ben Leeper, Cayne Ueckert, Zac Leigh, along with a few names (Brendon Little and Dakota Mekkes) that some considered for 40-man spots in November. Scouts will be looking for anyone with the spin/velocity/movement combination, paired with a funky release point.
Looking at 1.7
Gavin Cross is back from injury for West Virginia. He's still in my top 10.
It took a while, but RF Gavin Cross (Virginia Tech, 2022) catches a barrel today. Smokes one back through the middle for a single. pic.twitter.com/DgzlWYO7uc— Will Hoefer (@whoeferbaseball) March 13, 2022
Second thoughts (2nd round thoughts)
As I understand it, the qualifying offer-declining free agent still costs a draft pick and international spending space. At least, until the International Draft is firmed up. As such, the Cubs second round pick is still somewhat tenuous. I'm going off site to post my Top Ten, Next Fifty, and Succeeding Sixty, as it's an easier update than it would be on-site. As you assess pending free agents, mind the player cost.
Carson Whisenhunt is a left-handed pitcher for East Carolina. When I heard he would miss some time, I mentally defaulted to the Jordan Wicks comp being injured. Alas, it turns out he was suspended for (Nobody is telling why.).
“No clarity.” ECU Baseball Head Coach Cliff Godwins confirms that Carson Whisenhunt will not pitch next weekend and there are no further updates on his situation. pic.twitter.com/DZF9nkPIJu— Pirate Radio ☠️ (@PR927FM) March 7, 2022
. @StephenIgoe asked Coach Godwin about ECU baseball ace Carson Whisenhunt and pitching this week. He said we will not see him Friday. He also said he preferred to talk about players playing right now.— Eric Gullickson WITN (@gullysports) March 7, 2022
Whisenhunt is unlikely to slip to the Cubs in the second round, either way. At some point, an indefinite suspension to a quality arm becomes off-putting.
Afterburn (3rd and later round thoughts)
Relievers with funk are suddenly of interest. Gordon Ingebritson is one like that. His 2022 numbers are obscene into this weekend.
Sidewinder Gordon Ingebritson has produced a nearly unbelievable 0.29 WHIP to go with a 0.53 ERA.— Shotgun Spratling (@ShotgunSprD1) March 11, 2022
How the sixth-year senior has become a 'cheat code' out of the #UCIrvine bullpen: https://t.co/BYIzGz57EM pic.twitter.com/oGlP0RtNp5
Or Ben Joyce.
Ben Joyce, Slider and 101mph Fastball, Overlay (synched at release).— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 12, 2022
Why you might swing at a slider halfway in the oppose batter's box. pic.twitter.com/0rulZ61R8j